For three months in the fall of my senior year I had a co-op in Seville, Spain, working for the Thermodynamics and Renewable Energy Research Group of AICIA, the Andalusian Association for Research & Industrial Cooperation. AICIA is a research organization that encompasses many scientific fields throughout Andalucia. The group I worked in is just one of their research groups that focuses specifically in renewable energies and is associated with the University of Sevilla.
The main concerns of our research were with researching and designing ways to increase efficiency, cost effectiveness, and overall reliability of renewable energy, but more specifically solar power. At the University there is a group of engineers, graduate students, and interns working under the leadership of Prof. Manuel Silva Perez. The department has support from the university and AICIA, as well as from contracts that are made with larger industry companies and research institutions such as Abengoa Energy, and SFERA, the Solar Facilities for the European Research Area.
I personally worked on a project that deals with the design, evaluation, and implementation of a secondary reflective device (SRD) for use in a 10kW Stirling Parabolic Dish Concentrator. While the technology for parabolic dishes is already established, I started working on an extra device that can be applied to the present technology to improve efficiency by reducing solar spillage on the receiver. Therefore, the SRD is an attempt to increase the flux that can be effectively reflected into the needed focal plane.
In order to do this research, Tonatiuh, a ray tracing program was used to map the flux, as well to track sunlight from the sun itself, throughout a specified concentration system. The program allows the user to build any type of desired concentrated solar energy system and specify different characteristics to model specific designs, based on the technology, location, and sunlight duration. The program was used to simulate sunlight based on Monte Carlo simulations, and show you the effect different changes to the system have on the concentrated photons. It is possible to extract photon data from the program and use it as one desires. However, the Tonatiuh program itself only serves as the actual Graphical User Interface, for design and run of simulation. It does not assist in any analysis of the outputted data.
I initially had to develop a program that would merely take the extracted data from Tonatiuh and convert it into a readable data file that Matlab, and myself could recognize. After working on that and finally accomplishing it, I had that data on hundreds of thousand of photon coordinates, power, and their translation throughout the concentration system's geometry. With this now usable data, more advanced programs and simulations can be run to use the data in a variety of ways.
When not working I enjoyed several "puentes" or National holidays during my time in Spain, I had the chance to travel to several cities within in Spain, including: Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Cordoba as well as Alemendralejo, as well as the chance to travel to Ireland, Edinburgh, London, and Morocco. I enjoyed the laid back lifestyle of Sevilla with Spanish speaking friends, living with roommates from Brazil, Spain, and Italy I was constantly exposed to different cultures and language allowing me to have once in a lifetime experiences. I recommend spending time abroad to any student considering it.